Symptoms of cancer can be devastating. However, the side effects of cancer treatments aimed at leaving the patient tumour-free, often inflict their own brutal attack on the body. The same treatments that kill rapidly dividing tumour cells will just as easily kill any other rapidly dividing cells in the body, wreaking havoc on the lining of our intestines, our replenishing blood cells and our usually industrious hair follicles. This is an extreme example of a common problem: drugs have frequent, unintended and largely unpleasant side effects as a result of indiscriminate binding to both their desired targets and a multitude of other sites. How can synthetic biologists help?

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